I dunno if it's the growing influence of the interactive portion of SXSW, but gamification was in the news recently. An article entitled I Don't Want to Be a Superhero focuses on the dubious consequences of turning real life into games, including late-stage capitalist exploitation and disassociation from the real. This video from Extra Credits spins the transformation of life into play more positively though without being blind to the negative side.
There are lots of heady issues swirling about in this topic: hyperreality & simulation, late stage capitalist exploitation, depersonalization and anomie... A few brief thoughts. These don't have the benefit of a lot of reflection but this is certainly a very engaging topic.
On the positive side, if a gamified world could get kids to be more engaged in learning and people generally more engaged in their community, there's the potential for a lot of good with these cybernetic strategies. But their vulnerability to manipulation for nefarious purposes, such as spending real cash for digital ephemera or in lieu of just and fair compensation, makes me hesitant to send out the parades. Also, if we need the overlay of a game get necessary tasks like housecleaning done or make work bearable, doesn't they imply a more complex question about our relationship to work and life than how to incentivize people to motivate them to accomplish their tasks?
Why do we need a game to get us to call our friends and family? Why do we need the overlay of play to maintain social bonds? To motivate us to work? Is this simply extending behaviorist theories to all aspects of life in order to engineer society? Is there something wrong with that?
Today I was directed to take implicit associations tests. While doing so, I noticed two things. First, the "test" was more or less your basic quick time event that modern video games are quite fond of. The basic conceit of the study is using the errors you make sorting items into two columns to imply an unconscious / subconscious association. The columns are defined by two terms (black-white, good-bad) and the pairings switch as the test goes through (black and good, white and bad becomes black and bad, white and good). At least some criticism of the "results" of this test point to the conjunction of sorting and reflex tasks instead of racial basis as the cause of the "errors."
The second was the possibility of programming and "re-education" through the use of such tools. While it wouldn't have to be as extreme as A Clockwork Orange, I imagined getting a mild shock every time I failed to sort "correctly" instead of just the little red "X" letting me know I made an error. Inculcating social attitudes through "games"? I wouldn't want to get the "Recalcitrant" badge. Or would I?
Youtube won't let me embed the re-education clip from A Clockwork Orange here so you'll have to click over to enjoy it. RIP Stanley Kubrick.
Need to hook up my Kinect so I can earn some achievements on Your Shape and Active 2... oh, and maybe improve my health.